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Eyes OK; just a camouflaged rule

3 June 2003

Dear Mark,
The answer to this question is probably right in front of my eyes, but I cannot see it. I was watching a poker tournament on the Travel channel when player A, after seeing his first two cards, bets $10,000. Player B, still in the game but with far fewer chips, pushes all his chips to the center and states "all-in." My question is, why can player B, with far fewer chips and unable to sustain the future raises of player A, still be able to challenge Player A? Ralph I.

Key to this mystery is the "all-in." Poker in most casinos is played as "table stakes," meaning that only the chips in play at the beginning of each the hand can be used throughout that hand. The table stakes rule has a handmaiden rule, called the "all-in": a player cannot be forced to forfeit a hand simply because he/she lacks sufficient chips to call the bet.

A player who does not have enough chips to call a bet is declared all-in. That player, if a winner, qualifies for only that portion of the pot as it stood at the time of his final wager, not the whole pot. All further action among the other players, following a bettor's "all-in" declaration, takes place in a "side pot," which is inaccessible to the all-in player.

Dear Mark,
On Deuces Wild in video poker, what are the chances of getting four deuces? I actually hit one the other night and was wondering how difficult a feat it was. This leads me to my second question. I have never gotten a royal flush on a Deuces Wild machine. Is it harder in Deuces Wild than other versions of video poker? Henry C.

Though hitting four deuces is not the grande victoire of Deuces Wild video poker, it is still a neat tour de force. On average, you will see four deuces once in every 4,900 hands. As to the second part of your question, yes, Henry, it is much harder to get a royal flush at Deuces Wild than it is on your standard Jacks or Better machine, and here's why.

A royal flush, on average, will appear once every in 40,000 hands of Jacks-or-better. The royal is more scarce playing Deuces Wild, because we hold every deuce we get, causing the royal flush to occur at a lower average frequency in that game than in other versions of video poker. Holding all those deuces statistically changes the royal flush's appearance to every 46,000 hands instead of every 40,000.

By the way, though you didn't ask, accept a freebie: deuces royal happens once in every 650 hands.

Dear Mark,
I'm not familiar with the word "street" used in the connection you used for last week's column on Hold'em poker. Hordes of readers probably are, but there may be some dummies like me, who would benefit from a touch of jargon-clarification. J. N.

There are four rounds of betting in Hold'em. The fourth street is the fourth card on the board, and the third round of betting. It is also called "the turn." The fifth and final community card, dealt in flop games, is called fifth street in Hold'em and Omaha. It is also termed "the river" and begins the final round of betting. See how easy that is? Now I suppose you'll want me to define "the turn" and "the river" and "community card" and "flop games," right?

Gambling quote of the week: "The serious gambler is a man who is at war with chance and all her bitchy whimsy." William Pearson, The Muses of Ruin

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.